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The Revelation -- Which Interpretation?
By Graham PearceBook Title



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This is a summary of the salient points taken from three articles written by Bro. L. G. Sargent and published in 'The Christadelphian' in January, February and March 1960. Direct quotations are enclosed within quotation marks.


"The object of prophecy was always to reveal God to men and to keep men with God. For this purpose prophecy is a witness to God's foreknowledge both to Jew and Gentile, but it is above all an instrument in the preparation of a people for the Lord, it is given primarily for the benefit of those with whom God is working out His purpose of redemption".


There are many points of comparison between Daniel, "the man greatly beloved" (Dan. 9:23, 10:11) and John, the beloved disciple. Both were in exile, separated from the land of God's promise and both had survived the destruction of Judah's commonwealth and the destruction of the Temple. The ecclesia was once more scattered throughout the domain of its oppressor and, as with the prophecy of Daniel, the Apocalypse was given to strengthen the saints of the new Israel to endure a long period of time. For them, too, the vision would speak only as age by age unfolded in fulfilment, so that in every age the ecclesia of God would gain some sense of perspective in relation to their Master's return.

"In His revelation the future of His people is shown as God sees it and therefore time is transcended; the future can mould the present and He who is coming can also be in the midst of the ecclesias. This is only another way of saying the purpose of God is a present fact controlling the events which are to lead to its fulfilment."


Old Testament examples show the same principle at work. The cherubim of Ezekiel's visions show the future glory of the perfected and ideal Israel. But since

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the future glory was the ground of present judgements for the nation, the prophecies of judgement on Israel are depicted as emerging from the very visions of the cherubic host.

In Daniel 10 the vision of the "One Man", a figure for the multitude of saints in future perfection, introduces the prophecy of chapter 11 which depicts events in the Middle East up to the time of the end. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 "thus give an example of continuous historical prophecy, having its starting point in the prophet's own day and opening out of a vision of the future glory and leading up to that glory as the culmination. The distant future precedes in the vision the events leading to it, and is in fact their source."

This is exactly the principle which governs the structure of the Apocalypse. Each section is introduced by a vision of the future from which there emerges the events leading to it. The future is shown as in the present as well as being the standard by which the present is judged. Thus in chapters 4 and 5 the redeemed of the future acclaim the Lamb who receives a scroll which contained, from John's view in Patmos, a series of historical events leading to the kingdom. From God's point of view the beginning is in the end.

Daniel commenced his visions in the time of the Babylonian "head of gold" dominion and in chapter 2 revealed that four empires would follow one another in succession with the fourth undergoing a number of changes before being destroyed by the Kingdom of God. "Comparison with the exposition of the dream and with the prophecy of the Ram and He-goat leaves no doubt what powers would follow Nebuchadnezzar: they were the Medo-Persian and the Greek or Macedonian. After this, it is a commonplace fact of history that Rome succeeded to the dominion of the known world. It can scarcely be questioned that the Four Beasts of Daniel 7 correspond to the four metals of the Image."

The Fourth Beast with its 10 horns is the same as the Iron part of the Image with its 10 toes, that is the Roman Empire. The point to be noted is that John came within the Fourth Beast phase. It might be expected, therefore, that his prophecy would cover events from that point to the end and correspond closely with the developments shown in the later stages of Daniel's Fourth Beast.

The structure of the Apocalypse can be sketched in the following brief analysis:

1. The Christ Body (chapter 1) and its development in the ecclesias (chapters 2 and 3).

2. Introductory Vision (chapters 4 and 5):

(a) The end to be attained -- God manifest in the redeemed;

(b) The means by which it is attained -- the Slain Lamb and his control over the events of history.


3. The Worldly Setting in which the Christ-body develops:

(a) Seals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (chapter 6).

Prefatory vision to the seventh seal -- the sealing of the tribes and vision of the redeemed, Seal 7, opening into


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(b) Trumpets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (chapters 8 and 9).

Prefatory vision to the seventh trumpet:

(i) The climax -- the Angel of the Rainbow in judgement;

(ii) The means leading to it -- affliction during the witnessing period, culminating in the Great Earthquake which leads into


(c) Trumpet 7 (chapters 10 and 11).


[Mention of the Ark in the Holy Place under Trumpet 7 (11:19) leads back to a parenthetic survey of the ecclesia in the world and its changing relationships with imperialism (chapters 12 and 13) and the final triumph of the true ecclesia over the false (chapter 14)].

(d) Trumpet 7 continued -- Prefactory vision to vials (chapter 15); Vials 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 (no prefatory vision to vial 7) (chapter 16).


4. A. Judgement on the Harlot of Babylon and defeat of the Roman system, ecclesiastical and political (chapters 17, 18, 19), contrasted with

B. Marriage Supper of the Lamb and his Bride -- the spiritual climax of the book -- followed by war against the hostile world, and triumph (chapter 19).

5. Millennia] Reign (chapter 20), post-millenial revolt and judgement.

6. The Age Beyond (chapters 21 and 22) -- redemption completed in Paradise regained.

This provides the framework for understanding the Apocalypse and the changes they represent give the broad outline of the historical setting. Chapter 11 shows one aspect of the life of the ecclesia (represented by the down-trodden holy city) whilst chapters 12, 13 and 14 are a kind of parenthesis introduced to explain a number of symbols which arose in the vision of chapter 11. When chapter 12 reviews these symbols it commences with events which go back to a period much earlier than that represented in chapter 11.

John sees in the symbolic heaven of Rev. 12 a woman arrayed with the sun which is a symbol of the counterfeit ecclesia and with her is a man-child who maybe identified as Constantine -- opposed to the woman is "a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns" (12:3). The likeness to Daniel's fourth beast is self- evident (Dan. 7:7). Hence the events in chapter 12 describe circumstances in the Roman empire in which the counterfeit ecclesia under the leadership of Constantine (symbolized by Michael) took a major role in ejecting paganism from power.

Rev. 13 takes the symbol of the dragon-phase of Daniel's fourth beast a stage further. Adopting the reading of the R.V., John says the dragon "stood on the sand of the sea" (13:1) and witnessed the emergence of another beast. This was the same Mediterranean shoreline where Daniel witnessed the rise of empires (Dan. 7:2, 17), and in fact this latest beast has a close connection with Daniel's fourth

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beast and with the dragon, for this too had seven heads and ten horns. It is also a unique system because it combines the features of all four of Daniel's beasts showing that it was a natural sequential development in the presentation of powers. This beast was not independent of the dragon for the dragon endows the beast with its own power, throne and authority. This is nothing else but a further development in the Roman empire where two powers share their interests in the same empire.

The beast of the sea shows many points of comparison with Daniel's fourth beast, particularly the little horn phase. Both had a mouth speaking great things (Dan. 7:8, 20; Rev. 13:5). Both made war against the saints and prevailed (Dan. 7:21; Rev. 13:7), Daniel's Beast for 31/2 "times" (Dan. 7:25) and John's Beast for 42 months (Rev. 13:5) -- the same length of time differently expressed. Both powers are clearly the same and they represent the development of the Papacy in Western Europe.

Another beast comes out of the earth (Rev. 13:11); it had two horns like a lamb but spoke as a dragon. It exercised the power of the first beast in its presence and therefore once again represents a development within Roman Imperialism and not a substitution. It gives breath to an image of the first beast which men are commanded to worship. This lamb-like and dragon-like beast suggests a power which deceives (cp. Rev. 13:14) and yet enforces the ways of the old dragon Imperialism. The Holy Roman Empire was just such a combination. Its relations with the Papacy form a long and checkered story, yet neither could at the time exist without the other. It was the historic function of the Empire to maintain Papal authority and some measure of Roman unity in Europe.

Both Daniel's fourth beast and John's beast are destroyed by God (Dan. 7:20; Rev. 14:14-16). The picture of judgement is expanded in Rev. 17; where the Scarlet Woman rides on a beast, once again to be identified by its seven heads and ten horns. Who is represented by the woman? "No expositor questions that Rome is intended."

The comparison between Daniel and the Apocalypse continues to the end. To the prophet it was said, "At that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book" (Dan. 12: 1) who are permitted entry into the holy city. The "book of life" is a characteristic feature of both.

Many students are therefore convinced that, whatever modifications may be needed in detail, the older Christadelphian approach to the Apocalypse was sound in principle. Like Daniel, John had a prevision of the course of history from his own time to its climax in the Kingdom of God. He begins in the day of the Iron Kingdom, when the power of the Fourth Beast was at its height. He foresees the changes which that power would undergo until at last it is swept away by Divine judgement.

The grand theme in Daniel was the instability of all forms of human government in contrast to the one Kingdom that shall "never be destroyed". Medo-Persian

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succeeds the Babylonian Empire, Greek the Medo-Persian, Roman the Greek; and the Roman passes into a weakened and divided state until at last all the metals are ground to powder and swept away "as the dust of the summer threshing floor". John shows that this same principle of instability which applies to the successive empires is also exemplified within the Fourth Beast phase itself; and in doing so he shows the causes which brought about the divided state of the Image's feet. The three sets of sevenfold symbols -- seals, trumpets and vials -- show the forces of disruption which break down an existing order and allow anew order to grow in its place; this in its turn breaks down by the effect of Divine judgements, and is replaced by yet another, until at last the Kingdom of God comes.

"The Apocalypse is the essence and crown of all the prophets; but it is in a special degree a sequel to the book of Daniel, covering in more detail a part of the ground of his prophecy. Whatever principles are applied to the interpretation of Daniel must also be applied to the Apocalypse; and one would think it could hardly be in doubt that both portray continuous historical developments up to the time of the end."


This table shows the characteristics which the 4 Beasts of the Revelation share in common with Daniel's 4th Beast, the Beast which spans the period from the Greek Empire to the Kingdom
Daniel's 4th Beast 7:7 7:21 7:25 7:8, 25 7:22 7:22 7:12
Great Red Dragon (Pagan Roman Empire) 12:3 12:3 12:13 12:14
Beast of the Sea (Western Roman Empire - Papacy) 13:3 13:3 13:7 13:5 13:1,5
Beast of Earth
(Holy Roman Empire)
Scarlet Colored Beast (Communist-Catholic Confederacy) 17:3 17:3 17:6 17:3 17:14 17:14


CONCLUSION: Apocalypse beasts set out in greater detail the history of Daniels 4th Beast. They represent successive phases of Daniel's 4th Beast until the Kingdom. A most powerful proof of Continuous Historical interpretation of the Apocalypse. Futurist views compress all the symbols into 3-1/2 literal years.